First Annual ProperData Symposium Focuses on Future of Privacy

ProperData Symposium Group Photo

Dec. 1, 2021 –­ ProperData, the Samueli School’s National Science Foundation Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) Frontiers project, led by UC Irvine in collaboration with UC Davis, Northeastern, USC and IMDEA in Spain, marked the end of its first year with an annual symposium on Nov. 4-5, 2021.

The goal of the ProperData project is to improve privacy and data transparency in an increasingly online world, via a combination of technical and policy solutions. The symposium was held in a hybrid format with approximately 45 ProperData faculty and students from all institutions as well as advisers and friends of the project attending in person at UCI’s new Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building, and others participating remotely. Given the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, this first symposium was open only to project participants. Attendees shared their research results from the first year, brainstormed future collaborations and participated in a virtual co-located site visit from the NSF.

Athina Markopoulou, director of ProperData and a professor and chair of electrical engineering and computer science at UCI, hosted the event with the support of EECS staff. Pramod Khargonekar, vice chancellor for research, opened the event.

A panel of advisers and guests from both industry and policy sectors discussed the “Future of Privacy: Challenges and Directions” moderated by Zubair Shafiq, associate professor of computer science at UC Davis. Panelists included Bryan Cunningham, UCI Cybersecurity Policy and Research Institute; Steven Englerhardt, DuckDuckGo; Sean McGregor, Syntiant; Vikas Mishra, Eyeo; Ben Moskovitz, Consumer Reports; Henning Schulzrinne, Columbia; and Claire Vishik, Intel.

Overview of ProperData Symposium held in person at the new Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building.

Other activities included presentations by the principal investigators and lightning talks by graduate students and postdocs; a presentation of the center’s broader impact programming by Sharnnia Artis and Gregory Diggs-Yang, former director and current assistant director, respectively, from the Stacey Nicholas Office of Access and Inclusion; research brainstorming sessions led by Maritza Salazar Campo, UCI assistant professor of organization and management; public speaking workshops for graduate students and postdocs led by Bri McWhorter, Activate to Captivate founder and UCI alumna; followed by student proposal presentations and awards, a reception and other social activities.

“People who attended seemed happy to be able to finally spend time together. For some of the younger graduate students, this was their first and only in-person symposium they have attended, due to COVID. I had not even seen my UCI co-PIs in person, Gene Tsudik and Scott Jordan, for quite some time!” said Markopoulou. “It was nice to hear the progress from all researchers in their respective areas and to discuss the next steps forward.”

Marilyne Tamayo, assistant director of the ProperData Center, said, “I saw the graduate students and postdocs fired up, and just being really happy to meet in person, talk and come up with new, interesting perspectives. To see them have those kinds of conversations was really exciting for this project.”

Markopoulou was especially encouraged by the presentations from the moderated panel: “They made it clear that we need to define technical solutions and protocols to support the new data protection laws. California is currently leading the way in the U.S. when it comes to privacy and data protection rights, through the California Privacy Protection Agency (CPPA) and related laws. There is an exciting opportunity for our project to develop and contribute necessary technical tools in that direction.”

–­ Tonya Becerra